The Agony of Poor Service

– Aditi Naidu

I am sure you have witnessed at least ten odd instances of poor service experiences. Why ‘ten’: just a random number that came to my mind that seemed to demonstrate some of the enormity of the problem: so rampant in its nature, that we have come to almost accept it as inevitable. In fact Zeithaml et al, in their book, Services Marketing-Integrating Customer Focus Across the Firm cite an article in a major business periodical about the poor quality of services in the US. Introduced in partnership with the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), India’s Customer Satisfaction Index (ICSI) benchmarks organisations across sectors on customer satisfaction and finds, true to my suspicions and experience, that Indian banks –both private and public have lagged behind in customer satisfaction as per its 2015-16 findings. Another report, by TRAI, brought forth a finding that is not surprising: that telcos in the country have failed to meet customer satisfaction levels. While the notion of India being one of the fastest growing telecommunications markets, is enthralling, at the end of countless connectivity problems, call drops, such data of impressive growth seems meaningless.

         Having been closely associated with services marketing as an academician for a while now, I am particularly sensitive to the issues of service quality. For instance, when the check out at a super market or a departmental store makes one wait for what seems like an eternity, with only one of the cashier counters open despite a plethora of customers at the store to avail the ‘Upto 50% sale’, I cannot help but begin to boil with frustration. Another instance: a ‘delivery partner’ of a hyper-local food delivery firm calls me as we waited for dinner; the relative who had come to spend the Sunday over beginning to repent his decision to stay on for dinner, with his anticipation of Hyderabadi dum Biryani beginning to wither. The delivery partner had reached another part of the city, some oh-my-God 6 kms away due to some error!  Furious, and hungry, I call this firm: I do not get the meal ordered…instead I got an apology and patient listening that was just not good enough as the dish ordered for. My relative had to make do with home-made khichdi. A third party major broadband service provider in the city gets me enamoured by the promptness at which the service is sold to me as well as implemented. But the service is erratic till, finally, it fails completely: no Wi-Fi at home: all hell seemed to break lose! The catch 22 was that I needed an access to the internet to lodge a complaint on their ‘app’. Finally after almost a month of chasing the representatives of the company, we were back to the land of data. Of course, testimony to the findings of Indian banks falling behind their foreign counterparts in customer satisfaction, during an attempt for online payment, the internet banking services of a bank linked the IFSC code incorrectly to a branch in Chhattisgarh instead of Pune!  This, occurred with a well-regarded, large public sector bank of the country. A shuttle service I am elated to have found and downloaded the app of, provides incorrect pick up information and I miss the shuttle for my office the other day.

            Is it possible that only I have been unfortunate to bear the brunt of poor services? I think not. While the article cited in the book on Services marketing was titled ‘Why Service Stinks’, I am not even going to go there: my aspirations are much lower: I only want to begin a conversation to bring forth the ordeal of poor to pathetic service by what seem to be apathetic or complacent organisations.

           I am sure you too have had such poor service experiences. As customers, it’s good to complain…to at least let the erring firms know that such experiences are unacceptable. However, it has been established, that not many complain perhaps because they believe it’s a waste of time. Try it though: it may be well worth it- at the end of it, you, as a customer, are worth quality service.